The definition of a conundrum is itself a little unsettling, and it most often reads something a little like this: a confusing or difficult problem or question. Writing a review of Aviotek’s new OMDB Dubai International is a bit of a conundrum too, as this file tip-toes along the edge of greatness, yet seems to pull back every time it does. Not a bad file then, yet not a great one either, this effort to nail down a large and quite important international airport falls short in a few key areas. Still, the effort is resoundingly good in others, so good, in fact, that any sound verdict reached has to take both the good and the bad into account and reach some sort of balanced result that makes sense.
The next few months should see some more large (read: important) international airport releases, notably aeroSoft’s LSGG Geneva, Switzerland, so this is a good time to establish some parameters. We’re firmly in the Xp11 era now, so any high quality airport file is going to have to employ PBR material textures and HDR lighting effects. Glass surfaces on major terminal buildings need to be either translucent or, at the every least, present a reflective surface. Lighting needs to be both effective at illuminating ramps and aprons but itself be interesting to look at. Parking lots need to looking like what they are, not a smeary ortho-photo. Jetways should work, ramps should be hives of intense activity and cluttered in the extreme, and above all else said ramps should be oil stained and almost filthy looking.
And most important of all, when the pilot pulls up to the gate the results of all these effects should come together and present a view out the cockpit glass that leaves no doubt in the pilot’s mind that she’s at an airport, and not a shopping mall. In other words, when our intrepid sim pilot pulls up and sets the brakes she should be looking inside the terminal at a departure lounge full of people, and the ramps below the cockpit need to look like filthy, cluttered swarms of activity.
Anything less is just a shopping mall, and a dull one at that.
Which brings us to Aviotek Simulation Software’s (ASS) Dubai International. The windows are blue smears, whether night or day. They are not reflective, neither are they translucent. Strike one. The ramps are neither dirty or cluttered. Strike two. When you pull up to the gate there’s only a Jetway to remind you where you are. Strike three.
Look at the image above: even the Jetways employ opaque blue glass, yet that is not what you’ll find on the ground in Dubai:
Whether night or day:
Even opaque with some sort of reflective (PBR) material would be better than what we have here, and by way of further comparison, look at Fly Tampa’s version for FsX:
Yup, there’s some reflectivity going on there, and note the color spectrum employed on the skyline in the distance for future reference.
What we have at Aviotek’s OMDB is an airport that works very well at a distance, and then gets progressively less immersive the closer you get to the main terminal buildings. So yes, in the pattern, on final, or even on the main taxiways the window issue doesn’t intrude on the proceedings all that much. But pull up to the gate – where, arguably, these effects are needed most – and the effect falls apart.
Still…look at these images and tell me this is a “bad” file. I can’t, and I won’t. Far from it, as a matter of fact…with a little more work this could easily be one of the most majestic scenery files in X-plane.
To my eye, it appears that certain key elements were rushed, so maybe we can expect to find an update in the near future that addresses a few of these issues?
We’re not done with the airport yet, but I wanted to cue you in on another key element of this scenery file: some major (and quite famous) buildings not on the airport’s grounds. Let’s take the Bell 407 into town for a look-see:
My first observation is that the terminal buildings work better in daylight than at night. As I’m a night owl who loved to fly at night this does not work well for me, but that’s just me and your mileage may vary.
Below, the Burj Khalifa building, the centerpiece of the Downtown Dubai project:
And here’s the area in the scenery file:
Yes, the area needs work, both with the addition of more buildings and color choices. At night the area is vibrant and full of pulsing kaleidoscopes of light, yet in the scenery the area is almost a monotone dark gray, night or day. The last few images above are of the Burj Al Arab Hotel on the waterfront, and the developer added a heliport up near the top of the primary structure. Landing there is not fun. Here’s the hotel in Dubai:
The area in the scenery is decent enough from the cockpit of arriving or departing jets, but a little underwhelming up close. Still, it’s a lot better than nothing and I was happy to see the developer went the extra mile to include such elements. A better solution might be to omit them, then produce a really full featured addition that could be sold separately to those who really want such features.
As you work your way around this airport you just have to ignore the bad glass and concentrate on the positives. The layout is accurate, the main buildings are impressive to look at though not quite as immersive as they could be, but in truth what gets me is the sheer size and complexity of the model. aeroSoft’s EDDF Frankfurt is similar is scope.
Only when you taxi out to the active does the immense nature of the airport grab you, and this too is another reason I can’t help but like this effort.
There are air cargo areas, VIP facilities (most biz jets around here are BBJs or larger, BTW) and outlying aircraft parking areas too big to be believed. The airport seemingly just goes on and on, a never-ending thing that fairly screams out in pride: “Look at what we built out here in the desert! Look what we can achieve!”
So, yup, this file is impressive despite its flaws, and I think anyone interesting in flying anything larger than 757s, especially 748s and A380s, will want to get this file into their X-plane installation. And we can remain hopeful that Aviotek will work out the kinks, make a few additions and adjustments to what they’ve created here.
With that in mind, I’d score this less than perfect file quite a bit lower than 10 out of 10, yet I just can’t do it. To me this is an unfinished file, and so this will remain an unfinished review.
Like I said, conundrums are tricky things.
Hasta later –